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Rental Scam Uses Legitimate Businesses Name

March 2, 2018, 11:30 AM HST (Updated March 2, 2018, 11:33 AM)
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Better Business Bureau Northwest & Pacific is issuing an alert about scammers impersonating the BBB Accredited Business Kaua‘i Calls! Set Your Heart Free, to trick tourists into putting a deposit down for a fake rental house. A customer alerted BBB to the scheme after she lost $1,500 while made a deposit on a rental home. The customer became suspicious when the company requested the rest of the payment before the rental date. That’s when she decided to reach out to Kaua‘i Calls directly and learned the rental home advertisements were a fake.

Thanks to that tip, your BBB investigations team discovered multiple bogus ads being placed on an online selling site, advertising vacation rentals in Maui and O‘ahu. However, Kaua‘i Calls only offers properties on Kaua‘i. The photos used in the online advertisements are stock photos.

Rental scams are common, especially in Hawai‘i where there’s a large volume of tourists visiting the area.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid this scam:

  • Watch out for deals that are too good. Scammers lure you in by promising low rents, extra amenities, great locations and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam. Search online for the listings, or the scammer’s email address or phone number. If you find the same ad listed in other cities, that’s a huge red flag.
  • If possible, see the property in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it is what was advertised. And don’t fall for the overseas landlord story: scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
  • Never wire money. Pay with credit card just in case you need to dispute the charges.

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Kaua‘i Calls! Set Your Heart Free notified BBB someone is using their name, personal and business tax ID numbers and business address to conduct a vacation rental scheme. Kaua‘i Calls! Set Your Heart Free alleges advertisements are being placed on Craigslist under Maui and O‘ahu vacation rentals at a rate of about 10 false ads per day advertising vacation rental properties for rent on the islands of Maui and O‘ahu. Kaua‘i Calls! Set Your Heart Free only rents vacation properties on the island of Kaua‘i.

Agreements, email correspondence and advertisements obtained by BBB show the impersonator is using the name Stephen Mack as the property manager, telephone number (818) 208-0453 and email address vacationrentals002@gmail.com which do not belong to Kaua‘i Calls! Set Your Heart Free. The photos used in the ads do not belong to the properties being advertised. Many of the same photos are used for multiple advertisements.

Consumers who are victims of this scheme are encouraged to report their experience to their local State Attorney General’s office and Hawai‘i’s Attorney General’s office at (808) 586-1500 or online.

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